Lively writing, pertinent science, and an urgent topic make this a must-read for all.



A comprehensive look at the state of planet Earth.

This book is full of dire facts, but it’s not doom and gloom. Its lively, conversational tone with plenty of jocular asides keeps it unintimidating and accessible. Part I gives a brief, clear history of the cosmos and planet Earth and, particularly, its five earlier extinction events, which wiped out at least 75% of species. Part II discusses possible threats for a sixth extinction event, including asteroids, supervolcanoes, diseases, overpopulation, and war. Each is dissected in a way that manages to be more compellingly informative than scaremongering. Part III, entitled “What’s Going Wrong Today,” is where things get a bit terrifying. Climate change is scrutinized with the available facts and real-world examples—and the results are grim. But any good science book will leave readers feeling empowered, and that is the case here. An easy-to-understand checklist of things readers can do is provided along with the science that backs up these seemingly how-could-this-possibly-make-a-difference actions (eating less meat, for example). The book has loads of fun, interesting data; impeccable organization; and an enjoyable, nonpatronizing tone. Young readers will appreciate that this book is talking to them, not at them. It’s difficult to write a science-based book about the possible demise of the human species and make it empowering and entertaining, but this one does it. Final art not seen.

Lively writing, pertinent science, and an urgent topic make this a must-read for all. (author’s note, glossary, source notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-17)

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5394-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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Wordplay and wry wit put extra fun into a trove of fundamental knowledge.


With an amped-up sense of wonder, the Science Guy surveys the natural universe.

Starting from first principles like the scientific method, Nye and his co-author marvel at the “Amazing Machine” that is the human body then go on to talk up animals, plants, evolution, physics and chemistry, the quantum realm, geophysics, and climate change. They next venture out into the solar system and beyond. Along with tallying select aspects and discoveries in each chapter, the authors gather up “Massively Important” central concepts, send shoutouts to underrecognized women scientists like oceanographer Marie Tharp, and slip in directions for homespun experiments and demonstrations. They also challenge readers to ponder still-unsolved scientific posers and intersperse rousing quotes from working scientists about how exciting and wide open their respective fields are. If a few of those fields, like the fungal kingdom, get short shrift (one spare paragraph notwithstanding), readers are urged often enough to go look things up for themselves to kindle a compensatory habit. Aside from posed photos of Nye and a few more of children (mostly presenting as White) doing science-y things, the full-color graphic and photographic images not only reflect the overall “get this!” tone but consistently enrich the flow of facts and reflections. “Our universe is a strange and surprising place,” Nye writes. “Stay curious.” Words to live by.

Wordplay and wry wit put extra fun into a trove of fundamental knowledge. (contributors, art credits, selected bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4676-5

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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Necessary for every library, personal or otherwise.


As fresh and funny as ever, a classic compendium of physics in action gets a light but needed makeover.

Most of the “Things” here are still working the way they did back in 1988, 1998, and 2004, when the original and the revised editions dropped—but along with sporting new and spruced-up colors, some of the content, notably the section dubbed “The Digital Domain,” has been brought into the 21st century. Thus, the space shuttle and the VCR are no more, the workings of the telephone have been replaced by those of smartphones and telephone networks, and the jump jet has given way to the quadcopter and other types of drones. But the details that made the earlier editions delightful as well as edifying remain. In the illustrations, flights of tiny angels move the “first whoopee cushion” into place, discombobulated woolly mammoths get caught up in silly side business while helping to demonstrate scientific principles, and best of all, Macaulay’s brilliantly designed, engagingly informal diagrams and cutaways bring within the grasp of even casual viewers a greater understanding of the technological wonders of both past and present.

Necessary for every library, personal or otherwise. (index) (Reference. 11-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-82438-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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